Saturday, March 8, 2014

Celebrating International Women’s Day: Marion Nicoll’s artful mark on our city’s history

"Presence VIII (Man And His World Exhibition)," by Marion Nicoll 
© Glenbow Museum, 2014 
In 1875, women were legally considered “persons in matters of pains and penalties, but not persons in matters of rights and privileges.” From gaining the title of “person”, to the right to vote, to equal pay and equal right to work, the women’s suffrage movement has come a long way and is still moving forward.

This Saturday marks International Women’s Day. A day we can look back on the incredible leaps and bounds made in women’s rights, and celebrate those who helped bring us to where we are today. Calgary artist, Marion Nicoll, was one of the women who has made her mark on our city’s history.

Marion Nicoll was born in Calgary in 1909, and grew into a passionate and determined artist, studying at the Ontario College of Art, and at the Provincial Institute of Technology in Calgary. Marion became the first female instructor at the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art, (now  the Alberta College of Art and Design), was the first woman from the prairies admitted to the Royal Canadian Academy and was one of the first artists to use an Apple computer to produce limited edition prints with the McPaint program. She pushed the boundaries of art and inspired three generations of students to do the same. Her works are known for bold forms and contrasting colours, representing the world through an abstract lens.

Calgary Public Art’s Collection Coordinator, Quyen Hoang, sees artists like Marion Nicoll as an essential part of progressing society.

“Artists help us question the status quo, see things from different perspectives… that constant questioning is what keeps us progressing as a society and as human beings. That we’re not just complacent in where we are at, but that we’re always pushing the institutions that are there to serve us,” says Quyen. “Marion Nicoll had a very independent spirit. She and her husband Jim Nicoll were very determined to encourage the arts in Alberta and I think through their own work… their own practice and their efforts to promote others, they helped to create a unique community.”

You can find two of Marion Nicoll’s pieces on display now in the Municipal Building Atrium – titled January and February, part of the Civic Art Collection.

 “Life is constantly changing and our ideas are constantly changing as well. That’s what I like about art and artists,” says Quyen, “They connect us to a different way of thinking. They give us the criticality that we need to be able to be more than what we are.”

The Civic Art Collection is a collection of artworks managed by the Public Art Program and held in trust by The City of Calgary for the citizens of our community. It serves as a cultural legacy for all citizens of Calgary.

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